News & Analysis

Vikings' Thielen and Diggs becoming best WR tandem in the NFL

Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams‘ offense stole the show on Thursday night, and deservedly so, after their excellent performance. The game that the wide receiver duo for the Minnesota Vikings had is also deserving of recognition, though.

Simply put, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have as good a claim as anyone else to be the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL.

That was on full display against the Rams' defense, as the duo combined for 25 targets, 19 receptions, 258 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating when targeted of 121.8. They took full advantage of a Rams secondary that was without Aqib Talib and with Marcus Peters coming off a calf strain that held him out of practice all week.

Both received game grades over 80.0 for their efforts, as Diggs had a grade of 83.9 and Thielen came in with a grade of 81.5. That now leaves both as top-25 wide receivers in terms of overall grade this season after both finished last year with top-10 grades. They are the only two wide receivers on the same team who can claim that feat.

After last season, in which his top wide receivers were Jamison Crowder (36th-highest overall grade) and Josh Doctson (75th-highest overall grade), new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has looked Diggs' and Thielen’s way early and often in 2018. The duo has been targeted 23.5 times per game this season. The only pair of wide receivers to be targeted more heavily is Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers with 25.7 combined targets per game.

Cousins isn’t forcing the ball to them, either, as he has a passer rating of 118.6 when targeting Diggs and 110.6 when targeting Thielen. That isn’t to say that Cousins should be afraid to target his star wide receivers in tight windows, though.

In 2017, Thielen and Diggs were the only teammates to both land in the top-10 in contested catch rate. Diggs led all wide receivers with a rate of 63.6 percent, as he caught 16-of-25 contested targets without a drop and turned five of those into touchdowns. Thielen finished sixth on the list with a rate of 51.7 percent. Neither of them is particularly the big-bodied, box-out wide receiver that you think would dominate contested catch situations, but both Theilen and Diggs excel at the catch point.

Thielen also provides Cousins with that reliable presence in the slot that he had with the Washington Redskins in Crowder. Among wide receivers who ran 250 routes from the slot, Thielen tied for an NFL high 2.11 receiving yards per route run last season, as he lined up there on just over 50 percent of his receiving snaps (51.1%).  This year, Thielen is lining up in the slot even more with 64.9 percent of his snaps coming from the inside. He has also been more efficient when doing so, as his yards per route run from the slot is up to 2.29.

Whether they’re winning their matchups with route-running or at the catch point, at outside wide receiver or in the slot, Thielen and Diggs have been impressive for the Vikings and certainly were again last night. There are other wide receiver tandems who have valid claims to be considered the best in the NFL, but since the start of 2017, no one has been better than Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.

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